Interview: Angela Prentner-Smith

 

We’re incredibly fortunate be located near so many inspiring and disruptive companies and start-ups in Glasgow. One of them just happens to be This Is Milk; business change and transformation specialists who are changing the way we grow, operate and think about innovation.

Despite being busy with several award ceremonies and numerous nominations, Managing Director Angela Prentner-Smith managed to find the time to catch up with us and give her perspective on why TiM’s success.

 

Being Business Change and Transformation Specialists, you’re part of an industry that’s traditionally typified by inertia, bureaucracy and, as you put it, “men in grey suits”. How do you cut through this and turn it to your advantage?

Sadly the typical clientele in this industry haven’t quite cottoned on that we are better than the inertia and bureaucracy. I guess we cut through it by being ourselves. We are all about change – for betterment rather than for process. The clients we attract seem to get this, and everything about our brand says we are different! And we are much more about writing on walls, and challenging assumptions than creating bureaucracy.

 

You work with a lot of clients on improving customer experience; how do you keep improving This is Milk’s customer experience, and is it something the whole team is involved in?

Honestly we don’t always get this right. But we do make sure we are constantly learning and improving. Everyone in our business is involved in every aspect of the business. In order to improve our own customer experience we talk to our clients, we ask them for feedback and we gather insight directly from them. We get out and talk to people, network and mentor to get the best understanding of customers’ needs.

We have team meetings around a ‘betterment board’ which we all have two post it notes and can share with the team – what we rocked at, what we could do better, and our big ideas. It stays on the wall so we have a reminder of what worked, what didn’t and a place to make sure ideas don’t get lost. This is another way we constantly improve. We also embrace mistakes, as opportunities for learning – we don’t like them, but if we do make them, we own up and make things better as a result.

 

One of the most inspiring things about This is Milk, is that it’s a company which prominently consists of women operating and disrupting an industry that’s traditionally dominated by men. Is this something that you think about and does it figure into your business model?

We never sat out to be such female trailblazers, the initial thought was more about disrupting a staid industry and business model. We didn’t think about being women as a thing apart until after we were launched, and we realised how different we were. In terms of our business model – I suppose it does figure in that we want to be a better workplace, and that seems to attract women, but equally it benefits men.

The more I do this, the more I realise we are doing something special and bucking trends. I’m proud of the role we have assumed as inspirers. I have really realised, more by working with women closely, and reflecting on my own failings, women can be very guilty of holding themselves back.

 

This is Milk is up for several awards this year – what is it about the company that you feel is prompting such widespread recognition?

I would like to think we’re refreshing and bold. I’ve also realised what we do is traditionally very male and grey and we stand out. We’ve also really put ourselves out there, and tried to become part of a community – I think people recognise this.

 

It’s quite common for businesses to present a rosy, polished front – but behind the scenes, running a successful business is insanely tough and challenging. Are there any particular problems you guys are facing at the moment?

We are facing lots of problems, many brought about by success. Right now we need more people, but cashflow is a problem, so I am spending some time getting on top of finances so we know how much money we really need, to get the people we really need to bring us to our next stage of growth.

 

You’ve just moved into a new, larger office space – aside from growth and improved services, do you have any personal ambitions for the next few years?

My personal ambitions are to finally get to the point where I’m paid a decent salary. I’d also like to be able to move away from a lot of the jobs I currently do in the business, and take on a more set role. Like most small business owners in the early years, you end up doing too much. It’s good for a while as you learn everything, but after a while it just isn’t sustainable.

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This is Milk

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